As many, if not all, trans feminine individuals intimately come to understand, our social recognition is caught up in a peculiar catch-22: if you do not adopt the social conventions that uphold the meaning behind the designation “woman”, you’re asked how anyone can take your identity seriously, but, if you do adopt such conventions then you’re accused of acting out stereotypical parodies of womanhood. In either case, self-determination and autonomy is denied to us, with only heteronomous or external determination left in its place. But such a form of recognition is devoid of any real significance, because how can you truly see me if I can only be seen on your own terms?
This problem is not unique to the trans experience, but is arguably near universal to all marginalized groups when we try to relate to our oppressors: whether we reject the terms of the masters and act in defiance against them, or if we accept and act in accordance with them, we never gain the same kind of recognitions and freedoms they seem to happily grant each other.
Through the course of our fleeting existence, we live to learn that in the eyes of the master, we can never be anything but paradoxical beings, impossible realities existing in the liminal space between worlds. We are embodied temporalities constantly in transition, constantly on-the-move, displaced from our original ground yet never quite finding home anywhere else. We are simultaneously here and not here, rooted and uprooted, settled and unsettled, grounded and ungrounded, descended and ascended, come and gone, past and future, being and non-being.
It is in the nature of the master to be janus-faced: he simultaneously negates and affirms our humanity, and attempts to beguile us into thinking that there is a meaningful distinction to be made between his backward-gazing conservative face and his forward-gazing progressive face, all the while in his totality functioning as an obstruction to our real self-determination. In the interest of maintaining security we are constantly forced to define ourselves within the terms and conditions of his legislative discourse, which only helps secure the original function of this discourse: to eliminate ourselves, the dispossessed, out of existence in order to establish the eternal purity of the imperial Archon and the infinite space of his dominion, where we are rendered as nothing more than mere reflections in his narcissistic, monological self-relation to himself.
In the face of such a process of systemic erasure, there is really only one thing to do: express the rapturous totality of our being, in all of its righteous indignation with the present and with the full force of its joyous deliverance of the future. In a world designed with our absence in mind, our sheer presence is itself a living refutation of its law and order, a declaration in living praxis the emptiness of the master’s “own” being. Through unity in solidarity, the symphonic reverberation of our triumphant sound resounds in perpetuity. Loud and proud, we make our existence known.
3 Replies to “Loud and Proud”
This is beautifully written and absolutely to the point. As you say the problem is not unique to the trans experience, although I suspect that, in my own case , an explicitly non-standard sexual or gender orientation, on top of the class, cultural, religious and generational conflicts that beset me at a young age, would have been the proverbial straw that broke the camels back.
I’m 67 now, and I still can’t quite understand why I escaped the fate that befell most of those I grew up with – I mean imprisonment, gangland crime, death by heroin overdose or aids, or endemic life-long unemployment and semi-literacy. Not to mention being lured, during my teens, into political terrorism, a path which many of my politically aware friends chose in the face of British intransigence. Somehow I managed to avoid all the pitfalls.
Nothing in my life, though, was or is rosy. For reasons to do with the way a particular disposition might engage with a set of chance encounters, my life unfolded in a peculiarly painful way, over and above the oppressions and marginalisation visited by various authorities on my class. And to make matters worse, even a cursory examination of my family tree would reveal a (probably) genetic disposition to depression and schizophrenia, with devastating results played out over generations and within my immediate family.
What point am I trying to make? I don’t quite know. Maybe that Freud’s “ordinary un-happiness” is all we can hope for, although, in my own case, all I can hope for is a rosy death, a mythology deconstructed by the very experience of growing old, which is itself a sort of protracted dying and not rosy at all.
I don’t begrudge you the optimism of your last paragraph, I presume you are still young! Nor am I in any way disillusioned by life or the prospect of death. A hopeless hope momentarily erupts from I don’t know where or for what purpose! I cultivate that fleeting, insubstantial evidence of a Real.
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Thank you for opening up and sharing your story! Your being here in spite of everything that you’ve been through and the fate which befell your comrades and family, says a lot. Perhaps it is because, in one way or another, you’ve always been in touch with that very real of which you speak? As far as I can relate to this Real: though in many ways it asks us to give up everything, it is the very thing that sustains and raises our lives, giving us everything. Maybe, just like the First Noble Truth, a realization of ordinary unhappiness is precisely, paradoxically, the door through which we find extraordinary happiness or mahasukha.
Thanks. Just a clarification. I don’t mean to patronise when I mention youth or, indeed, to exclude the possibility of the aware cultivation of joy as one ages. Simply to point to a natural life cycle we share with other living creatures.
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